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Measurable Self-Development Programs for Leader Development in the Army

Field operations can be challenging for army officers when adequate leadership is lacking. Arguably, the field is where tactical combat decisions are operationalized and experimented. Operational situations require flexible and complex leaders who can leverage their cognitive, behavioral, and social competencies to ensure combat success (Hunt & Philips, 1996, p. 2). The army has historically stressed leadership competencies on formalized training and professional development programs. However, a report from Schirmer et al. (2008, p. 51) found that the institution’s competence programs allowed officers to reach stable, average levels of competence that existed for the rest of their careers. Besides, individual effort is needed for leadership growth and development to take place. Given the complexities of future army field operations, the need to equip army officers with measurable self-development tools will be crucial to adequately tackle the flexibility and complexity required in the field. This paper uses concepts learned from the force management module to research and analyze the problem of measurable self-development programs for leader development among army officers.

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Background to Army Leader Development and the Context of the Field

As a defense institution, the Army has always strived the improve soldiers’ lives in the field. The army’s interest in the soldier’s performance is what has contributed to various leader development programs aimed at improving the soldier’s tactics, techniques, and operational efficiency and effectiveness in the field. This interest in the Noncommissioned officers’ (NCOs) operational excellence can be found in many army publications that ideate operational and training standards for all army officers within the defense institution. For example, the TRADOC Regulation 71-20 (2013, p. 32) acknowledges that concepts are the foundation for the army’s process executions, allowing it to describe the problem or series of problems to be solved, the components of the solution, and how those components interact for problem-solving. This functional philosophy can be found in the Department of the Army (2012, p. 1-1), where the concept of mission command is used to authorize and direct combat operations initiatives in the field amidst uncertainty that needs thinking and adaptation for efficient and effective combat outcomes in a coordinated effort with the central command center and the NCOs.

Self-Development Programs for Leader Development

The Army has standards and guidelines on leadership. The Department of the Army (2019, p. v) states that “an ideal Army leader serves as a role model through strong intellect, physical presence, professional competence, and moral character.” This construct underpins the cognitive, behavioral, and social aspects of leadership that is a need in the diverse and complex environment of the combat field. Hunt and Philips (1996, p. 3) highlight that the Army’s future operating environment will be less predictable and characterized by increased diversity both within and outside of the Army. This projected development represents a change that needs leaders to analyze the problem, recognize opportunities available for alternative solutions, and propose precautions to reduce the problem’s impact.

The official Army leader development programs are not efficient and effective in achieving leader growth and development. A report by Schirmer et al. (2008) on “Leader Development in Army Units” highlights that the training programs and professional development realized through peers, coaches, and mentors are useful in achieving a stable and average performance (p. 51). While this stability may be desirable within the management of army units, it may be inadequate in responding to the projected future change in field operations. Ideally, the US Army keeps enlisting NCOs from non-traditional Army demographics, necessitating non-traditional management approaches. Since leadership growth and development that respond to this expanded demography cannot occur without individual effort (Schirmer et al., 2008, p. 51), self-development programs become important. These programs will help leaders recognize their personal and professional leadership strengths and weaknesses for efficient and effective unit management.

Self-development programs are important in developing future leaders. The Army guidelines on leader development highlight that a leader “employs self-understanding and recognizes effect on others” (Department of the Army, 2019, p. 6-4). This construct acknowledges self-development as a necessary tool in relating to others. It includes elements like mentorship, counseling, and role-modeling that are necessary for molding NCOs into future leaders. While constructs on self-development exist, leaders ignore them or rarely use them (Schirmer et al., 2008, p. 52; Department of the Army, 2019, p. 6-4). This attribute can be explained by a lack of a standard self-development program. The standardization of self-development programs will close the gap on self-development for better leader development.

Solutions to the Self-Development Issue

Formalize Self-Development Programs

One of the issues noted by Schirmer et al. (2008, p.51-52) was the informal utility of self-development among Army officers. The researchers found that junior officers utilized informal self-evaluation and reflection tools as they endeared to identify their leadership strengths and weaknesses. Formalization includes developing measurable tools that enable the officers to develop themselves and others as Army officers through a scored checklist. As highlighted by Hunt and Philips (1996, p. 2), the development should cover cognitive, behavioral, and social well-being elements. The tool should adapt these three elements that should be scored using a Likert scale to develop aggregate scores that will help identify the Army Officer’s strengths and weaknesses in leader development.

Partner with Educators for Teaching Support

The Army Officers’ self-development is a process that is characterized by inputs and outputs and mediating factors. Since self-development is a learning process, educators must design universal ways of making of delivering learning materials and resources. The educators will also contribute towards universal assessments as self-development becomes standardized. Partnering with the educators will also help in standardizing the tool used to measure self-development among Army officers for leader development. This standardization will allow the universal creation of leaders that respond to future challenges. In addition, many scholars suggest that governments should embrace modernization in military training through cross-functional teams to yield the best personnel for combat. Animated computer algorithms allow soldiers to enter into a simulated world and engage in combat-like events on virtual terrains where they are expected to fight. This setup allows more practice hours while cutting cost on training resources.

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The army leader development programs are vital in creating stable and performing leaders. The peer support, coaching, and mentorship available in all leader development programs facilitate future Army officers’ creation. However, the future Army field operations projected to be less predictable and more diverse means that army leaders need to grow and develop their leadership competencies to respond to the changes. Since leader development needs individual effort, leader development programs need to focus more on self-development. While the utility is low and often ignored, partnering with educators to develop measurable self-development tools will encourage program utility.


Department of the Army. (2012). ADRP 5-0: The operation process. Web.

Department of the Army. (2019). ADP 6-22: Army leadership and the profession. Web.

Hunt, J.G., & Philips, R.L. (1996). 1996 Army symposium: “Leadership challenges of the 21st century army” executive summary. Web.

Schirmer, P., Crowley, J. C., Blacker, N. E., Brennan, R. R., Leonard, H. A., Polich, J. M., … Varda, D. M. (2008). Leader development in army units: Views from the field. PsycEXTRA Dataset. Web.

TRADOC Regulation 71-20. (2013). Concept development, capabilities determination, and capabilities integration. Web.

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